VANCOUVER – An MP says a loophole in the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit that doesn’t prohibit people charging fees to help others get relief funds needs to be closed to prevent scams.
Don Davies, a New Democrat who represents Vancouver Kingsway, says 77 seniors at a residence in east Vancouver were approached by an individual offering to register them for the relief funds in exchange for a 10 per cent cut of the money.
Davies believes the scam highlights a loophole in the emergency relief funds, where it is not prohibited to charge an individual to help them with their benefit application.
“When I checked into it, there was no prohibition on charging anybody to apply for the CERB benefit. And considering it’s so simple, it’s a three or four question application, there’s really no justification for anybody charging anybody,” Davies says.
He has written a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office to have the issue addressed.
The letter asks for an explicit ban on collecting fees.
“Making money from people desperate enough to need emergency financial assistance is unconscionable,” it reads, adding free help is available through MP community offices, and by calling a toll-free number.
“These exploitative fees should never have been allowed, and should be prohibited immediately.”
Seniors in our community are being targeted by people charging fees to "help" them apply for the CERB.
Yesterday, I sent a letter to the PM calling on the federal government to ban 3rd parties from charging fees for assistance with CERB applications. https://t.co/6eHPaWS28p
— Don Davies MP (@DonDavies) May 21, 2020
B.C. senior Carina Alamil says she fell for such a scam involving the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit and returned the money.
Alamil was set to receive $600, but took her concerns to authorities.
“I feel better now. I can sleep well. I did not realize that I helped people,” she says.
A spokeswoman for Carla Qualtrough, the minister of employment, workforce development and disability inclusion, says they are aware of benefit-related scams targeting seniors.
The spokeswoman says upcoming old age security and guaranteed income supplement will be rolled out automatically, meaning a potential scammer looking for payment to help with applications will be more easily recognizable.
With files from Lisa Steacy